Scotland revives independence bid in wake of Brexit vote

The majority of Scottish voters voted to stay in the EU during the Brexit referendum, putting it at odds with England, where the majority voted to leave.

Russell Cheyne/Reuters
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks at the launch of the Scottish National Party's (SNP) "biggest ever political listening exercise," in Stirling, Scotland on Friday.

Scotland voted against independence just two years ago, but the nation is once again considering leaving the United Kingdom in the wake of its historic June vote to leave the European Union.

A 62-percent majority of Scottish voters had opted to remain in the EU, putting Scotland at odds with England, which voted to stay.

In order to measure public interest in revisiting the independence question, the Scottish National Party (SNP) plans to conduct research to measure public opinion on the topic by conducting doorstep interviews and surveys with two million of Scotland’s 5.3 million population by the end of November.

"Do we control our own destiny as a country or will we always be at the mercy of decisions taken elsewhere?" Nicola Sturgeon, leader of SNP, asked her country. Ms. Sturgeon has called it "democratically unacceptable" for Scotland to have to leave the EU after, as a nation, voting to remain.

The entire project will be funded by SNP, which claims the information will inform how best to call another independence referendum, should the country decide to do so. Sturgeon has said that the government was already working on writing legislation for another independence vote, prior to the seismic Brexit vote.

Not everyone is in favor of another referendum, much less leaving the UK to stay in the EU. Opponents of Scottish independence have suggested that leaving the UK would create added uncertainty in an already unstable time. A YouGov Poll taken following the Brexit decision found 53 percent of Scots in favor of staying in the UK.

"Re-heating the referendum debate will only add a further cloud of uncertainty over Scotland's future, just at the moment when we need a government dedicated to security and stability," Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said, according to Reuters.

There is also the economic argument. Some business leaders maintain that renewing an independence debate would "only add fresh uncertainty to Scotland’s future at a time when small and large businesses are looking for stability from all layers of government," as a group of business leaders wrote to newspaper The Scotsman. 

The economy was one of the major concerns for Scots voting in the first independence referendum, and is now an even bigger concern given the variability of the European economy following Brexit.

Acknowledging this point, Sturgeon has said that SNP would include expanding the economy and cutting the fiscal deficit, which was 9.5 percent of GDP in March, into the independence policy. 

Northern Ireland, which also voted to remain in the EU, is also considering leaving the UK and possibly reuniting with Ireland.

"The British government now has no democratic mandate to represent the views of the North in any future negotiations with the European Union and I do believe that there is a democratic imperative for a 'border poll' to be held," Northern Ireland's deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, who leads the pro-unification Sinn Fein party, told national Irish broadcaster RTE in June.

While neither the Northern Irish nor the Scottish independence movements have collected enough momentum to signal imminent succession, the movements do put added pressure on British Prime Minister Theresa May to maneuver the United Kingdom out of the EU gracefully.

Material from Reuters was used in this report.

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